Assume the following hypothetical situation. I have just received a letter from an old friend of the family (and I do mean old), Pat Woodson, a retired supreme-court judge in Tennessee. We have kept up our acquaintance over the years by means of exchanging letters every month or so. Pat does not use e-mail, doesn't even own a computer. Below is one paragraph from the most recent letter I have received:
I'm happy to say that my oldest great-grandchild, Leslie, will be a senior in high school next year, but wants to be a [name of field]. I always figured Leslie for a music major—has a great voice! I just don't know about [name of field]. Nobody in our family has ever been a [name of field], and I have no idea what kind of life that will be for somebody like Leslie, who really has more of an artistic bent. What do those people do, anyway? Can you make any money at [name of field]? Why would anybody want to be a [name of field] when he could be a music major? I had always hoped Leslie would be a music major, with maybe law school somewhere down the road.
In the places where the element [name of field] occurs, substitute your own field of study. Obviously, Pat is concerned, and I'm concerned about Pat's concern. To be helpful, I remember that you are studying [name of field] and probably know a great deal about it. Because you and I are establishing a professional relationship and because I know you are not only knowledgeable about the field but also willing to help, I ask you if you would be kind enough to write to Pat and discuss [name of field] as a potential career option for Leslie. You, of course, agree.
So now you have to write this letter. Have you got any questions you want to ask me?
Pat's address? Sure, here it is: 1234 5th Street, Purvis, Tennessee 55555
What kind of person is Pat? Oh, stodgy, I would say. A brilliant legal mind, still pretty keen, but socially very conservative and a stickler for detail. One lawyer still talks about having his case thrown out of Pat's courtroom because there was an improper heading on the brief. Likes music. Plays piano by ear, not very accurately, but with volume.
Pat's gender? "Pat" could be short for either "Patrick" or "Patricia." Pat Woodson's gender is the opposite of your gender. Leslie (another name that could be either female or male) is the same gender as you are.
What should you put in the letter? Well, that's really up to you—whatever you think will be most useful to Pat (and Leslie) in thinking about career choices. You can describe the field, talk about the education required, and mention job prospects and pay ranges. You can encourage ("It's a great field, even though the pay isn't as high as some") or discourage ("The market is way down and competition for jobs is keen this year"). You can explain why you like the field so much and tell how you got interested in it, or you can explain that you do not really like the field much but are willing to put up with the tedium because the financial rewards and job security are so great. You can do all of these or none of these, doing something else instead. At least one thing you will probably want to do is explain why you are writing ("My technical writing teacher made me do it"—though preferably in a more sensitive, mature version).
How long should the letter be? More than one page.
Is this letter really a technical document? No, not really. It is a friendly letter, and you can depart from total objectivity to a certain extent. Although a friendly letter, keep the tone and format formal, as if it were a business letter. Keep your primary audience in mind: Pat is older than you, distinguished, stodgy, probably rather formal (having been a judge, and a high-powered one at that), and a stickler for detail. You probably do not want to be too breezy or chatty in your writing, though you can allow yourself to express enthusiasm for your field if you wish. Pat may also be in a position to help you out some day, so keep the primary audience happy. In addition, keep the secondary audience—me—in mind, too. Pat might mail me a copy of the letter, or might comment on your performance in the next letter to me, and in such a case you would want what you do to have a good effect on our developing professional relationship.
I have outlined a response for you. Please add your own ideas and thoughts. You will need to format the letter as well.
City, State, zip
Dear Mr. Woodson,
My friend and colleague, XX, asked me to write to you about your concerns for your great granddaughter and her choice of careers. I am in the business field and work within the marketing arena most of the time. I enjoy marketing because it allows me to focus on several different aspects of my talents, while still challenging me to learn more.
My most important concern for you is that you understand that marketing takes a very creative and detailed mind, something that people ...
A positive letter about the marketing field, written with the requirements of the assignment.